Sensitivity of insectivorous bats to urbanization: implications for suburban conservation planning

Caragh G. Threlfall*, Bradley Law, Peter B. Banks

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Citations (Scopus)


Effective conservation planning requires an understanding of species-habitat relationships across a diverse array of taxa, yet many studies typically focus on conspicuous fauna. Using systematic acoustic surveys, we examine the response of insectivorous bat species to urbanization and quantify species-habitat relationships to classify species in terms of their tolerance or sensitivity. Surveys were conducted in Sydney, Australia, during spring-summer of 2008 in 29 defined 25km2 landscapes, across various land uses. We quantified bat-habitat relationships using local and landscape scale variables. We recorded 17 taxa across the urban gradient, with substantial variation in the tolerance and sensitivity of each species. The density of houses, landscape geology, the amount of bushland (ha) exclusively on fertile geologies and moth biomass were the most frequent predictors of individual activity, explaining more than 60% of variation in activity for some species. Importantly, the area of bushland on poorer soils was not a good predictor, highlighting the need for caution when interpreting results of large scale studies which do not account for variations in habitat productivity. Species-specific differences existed, although the majority of the assemblage was considered to be urban-sensitive. Many of these sensitive species were most active in fertile suburban habitats, with an average of 12-28% bushland cover within 5km. Our study demonstrates the necessity to elucidate species-specific habitat relationships, and suggests bats would benefit from the conservation of productive suburban bushland remnants and riparian habitats, while improving connectivity to these areas via the maintenance of tree cover across the matrix.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-52
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number1
Early online date20 Dec 2011
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Community ecology
  • Insectivorous bat
  • Species-habitat models
  • Urban ecology


Dive into the research topics of 'Sensitivity of insectivorous bats to urbanization: implications for suburban conservation planning'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this